Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 19, 2012 - 9:36 am

First Air sues defence department for negligence in 2011 Resolute Bay crash

First Air alleges Aug. 20 crash was “caused or contributed to by the negligence” of military air controllers

JANE GEORGE
Workers adjust the VOR (VHF Omni-directional Radio Ranges) beacon for Resolute Bay airport — called the “sombrero” by locals due to its resemblance to that wide-brimmed hat. VOR is a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft to determine their position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio beacons, with a receiver unit. First Air flight 6560 crashed not far from the radar beacon.  (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Workers adjust the VOR (VHF Omni-directional Radio Ranges) beacon for Resolute Bay airport — called the “sombrero” by locals due to its resemblance to that wide-brimmed hat. VOR is a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft to determine their position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio beacons, with a receiver unit. First Air flight 6560 crashed not far from the radar beacon. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

(updated May 22, 2 p.m.)

First Air, under its legal name, Bradley Air Services Ltd., has filed a statement of claim against the Department of National Defence in connection with the disastrous crash of First Air Flight 6560 into a hillside near the Resolute Bay airport on Aug. 20, 2011.

The statement of claim, filed Feb. 16 in the Nunavut Court of Justice, says the crash was “caused or contributed to by the negligence” of air traffic controllers, who were handling operations at the airport during Operation Nanook exercises underway at the time.

First Air’s statement of claim seeks a trial in Iqaluit and seeks compensation for damages.

The statement of claim, filed on behalf of First Air by Iqaluit lawyer Vernon Finch of the Toronto-based firm, Paterson McDougall, notes that the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Board of the Northwest Territories also plans to file statements of claim against First Air and others “in relation to passenger bodily injury and death results from the accident.”

Three survivors and the families of eight deceased persons recently filed lawsuits against First Air, Nav Canada and the Department of National Defence to seek compensation for damages inflicted on them by the crash.

The statement of claim filed by First Air, similarly to those from the survivors and their families, also says Nav Canada had entered into an agreement with the federal government for the operation of the Resolute Bay airport as a controlled air facility.

It alleges that on the day of the crash, the defendant, that is the federal government through the Department of National Defence, was responsible for the “provision of air traffic control services, air advisory services and flight information services for all inbound to and outbound from Resolute Bay Airport.”

The statement of claim says that the crew of Flight 6560 was in touch with the air controllers on Aug. 20, 2011 and that the air controllers “were or ought to be providing pilots with detailed information pertaining to aircraft location.”

As a result of their “negligence,” the statement says that First Air has sustained damages, with respect to past and future payments to passengers and passenger representatives, “direct and consequential losses” due to the destruction of the aircraft, the cleanup and remediation of the crash site, and other items.

The statement of claim asks for a response, in the form of a statement of defence or appearance, within 25 days.

That has not taken place yet.

Media reports say that the families of First Air flight attendants Ann Marie Chassie, 42, and Ute Barbara Merritt, 55, who both died in the Aug. 20 crash, have also filed a statement of claim against Nav Canada and DND.

The families of First Air pilot Norman Blair Rutherford, 48, and co-pilot David Henry Hare, 35, are also suing for damages in a separate statement of claim.

These statements of claim and others filed at the Nunavut Court of Justice come in advance of the Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the incident.

When released, the full report will look at the causes and contributing factors that led to the crash, but will not assign fault.

 

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